Senate Passes Supplemental After Defeat of Earmark Amendments

Posted March 29, 2007 at 12:36pm

Correction Appended

Despite President Bush’s repeated veto threats, the Senate passed a $122 billion supplemental war spending package today largely along party lines, touching off what is expected to be a weeks-long rhetorical fight between Senate Democrats and Bush and his Republican supporters.

GOP Sens. Gordon Smith (Ore.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.) joined 49 Democrats in approving the bill, which includes new spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a laundry list of unrelated earmarks. Independent Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) joined with Republicans in opposing the bill.

“The ball, I repeat, is in the president’s court,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said following the vote as he and other Democratic leaders sought to place the political blame for any delay in funding caused by the veto on Bush.

With Bush and his Republican allies in the Senate mounting an attack on Democrats for passing a bill they knew would be vetoed, Reid sought to turn the tables on the GOP, charging that he could not recall “any time in history where a president has done more to undermine the troops in the field than this.”

While much of the public debate over the bill has centered on the inclusion of a tentative timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the bill also could face a secondary veto threat thanks to the billions in non-emergency earmarks included by appropriators. Democrats beat back some last-minute efforts by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to strip offending provisions, including a procedural challenge to an earmark benefiting the Christmas tree industry. An amendment eliminating a $25 million bailout of the spinach industry did pass, 96-1.

Senate Democrats also blocked a move by DeMint to bring into effect a set of new earmark disclosure rules that were included in the chamber’s ethics reform bill. Although the Senate passed the new rules earlier this year, they will not go into effect until the president signs the legislation. An aide to DeMint said the fiscal hawk had gotten approval from the chamber’s 49 Republicans for a unanimous consent agreement putting the rules into place, but Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) objected to the proposal on behalf of his fellow Democrats.

Correction: March 29, 2007

The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the Senate had defeated an amendment eliminating $25 million for the spinach industry from the supplemental bill. That amendment passed the chamber.